What is the role of board members, especially as it relates to the school leader and board chair?

We thought we would share discussion from our monthly virtual Board Chat. There is typically a highlighted topic but most of our time is discussing best practices and getting feedback from fellow board members. Board chat participants posed some excellent questions. Here are the highlights:

Question:  How can board members make life better for board chairs?

  • Attend board meetings or at least RSVP in a timely fashion. It is difficult to function as a board if there is not a quorum present. If a planned board meeting date turns out to be a difficult date for many board members, timely RSVP’s can help the board chair set up a new meeting date that can garner the needed quorum.
  • Volunteer for one or more board committees. Try to chair at least one committee. Committees are where most purposeful work and discussion can take place which can help the board run smoothly and help the school to react to strategic decisions in a timely manner.
    • Take board committee minutes and get them to the board chair in a timely fashion. Good written minutes should be read by the board members in advance of the meeting so that they do not have to be rehashed verbally in the meeting. The board chair can use committee minutes to build the agenda for any action that may need to be taken on the committee’s work.
  • Follow through on commitments you make to the board.
  • Read the board minutes ahead of the board meeting to be ready to approve them.

Question: When is it appropriate for board members to connect directly with school leaders or school staff?

  • This can depend on the culture of the school community and board history. Generally, it is good to check in with the board chair and school leader about their communication expectations for board member interaction with the school leaders and staff.
  • Many board members meet individually with the school leader at least once, or once a year to get to know one another.
  • Some direct communication between board members and school staff can happen at board committees which generally include staff and board members.
  • Direct communication between board members and school leaders/staff, in the capacity of the board role, is not usually done without notification to the school leader or board chair or as a result of a specific board mandate.
  • The school leader often works in a collaborative fashion with the board chair although it is the role of the school board to review the school leader’s performance annually. A strong annual performance review practice will ultimately ensure good communication and accountability for the schools’ overall strategy and oversight.

Question: Should charter school boards expect to meet in the summer and specifically should they meet to engage in strategic working sessions?

  • Summer is an important time for charter schools. It is time when:
    • The previous fiscal year ends (June 30) and the new fiscal year begins (July 1).
    • Students are out of school and the school leader/staff are writing and revising policy handbooks for the next school year.
    • New Staff are being hired
    • New vendor contracts are being determined.
    • Authorizer contracts are being reviewed and renewed. 
  • The above items can all be very strategic discussions therefor, many school boards meet in the summer. Some boards host a retreat to tackle strategic issues and set the agenda for the upcoming school year.

Question: What are charter schools doing for fundraising in Minnesota?

  • Many charter schools start at or get to a point where they deem it necessary to raise additional funds for their school community.
  •  It is best practice to have a strategic plan for fundraising and then work to make that plan part of the regular operations of the school. Some charter schools hire outside consultants to help with the development of the annual fundraising plan. (CharterSource can recommend resources for this work.)
  • Other charter schools create a professional position within its organization to develop the plan (for board approval) and then execute on the plan. In some cases the fundraising is part of the position’s duty and in other cases it makes up the entirety of the position.
  • Other charter schools try to use existing resources of the charter, including a community outreach/fundraising board committee, to develop & execute on the fundraising plan.


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